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Paris is planting four new ‘urban forests’ right next to major landmarks

The Hôtel de Ville and Opéra Garnier will soon be surrounded by pine groves and cherry blossom trees

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Central Paris may be beautiful, and grand it certainly is. But if there’s one thing it’s not, it’s green. The streets are lined with tarmac, concrete, and lots and lots of limestone. Even the parks are dusty, gravelly, distinctly unwild places – with very few trees in sight.

Soon, however, the city centre could look a heck of a lot more rustic. And if these mock-ups are anything to go by, pretty blooming lovely. Anne Hidalgo, Paris’s mayor, has confirmed that four new ‘urban forests’ are to be planted in locations across the city – including directly in front of the Hôtel de Ville, the city hall, and behind the Opéra Garnier, the French capital’s main opera house.

Opéra GarnierOpéra Garnier. Photograph: Apur / Céline Orsingher

Linden and cherry blossom trees will be planted at the rear of the opera house, while a tall pine grove will take over the currently-barren square in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

The two other locations chosen to host a more modestly proportioned ‘urban forest’ are a small paved plaza to the side of the Gare de Lyon, which will become a woodland garden, and a pedestrianised area of the Seine quayside, which will be given over to swaths of shrubs and grasses.

Hidalgo had unveiled the designs for the new green spaces to much fanfare last summer. After she was reelected earlier this month, she told Le Parisien that planning would finally get under way over the coming months. It’s unclear exactly when construction and planting will begin.

Gare de LyonGare de Lyon. Photograph: Apur / Céline Orsingher

It’s just one of a gaggle of initiatives Hidalgo has launched in an effort to make Paris greener. Since she became mayor in 2014, she’s created some 30 new green spaces – including 28 school-playground ‘oases’ – and has pledged to make 50km of temporary bike lanes that were introduced during lockdown permanent. Cars could also be banned permanently from the iconic Rue de Rivoli.

By 2030, the authorities want 50 percent of the city to be covered by planted areas, whether parkland or green rooftops. Right now, just 9.5 percent of Paris is made up of public green space – so there’s a long way to go yet. Plant more of these forests though, and the city may well hit its target.

Berges de SeineBerges de Seine. Photograph: Apur / LUXIGON

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